Friday, June 30, 2006

Savage Chickens: Time Flies Cartoon

Way more effective than shallow slogans like Carpe Diem!

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

4NATLEE*

...Or in long hand, "For Natalie"

This is a post dedicated to finding my dear HK friend Natalie, who has been so kind as to have kept in touch and wrote me proper handwritten letters over the years (my God, it's almost exactly a decade when I really count up the years since we first met!!), sharing with me her thoughts and experiences of her life in the HK corporate world, as well as patiently listening to my moanings and groanings about work and study problems and gave me sage advice on these.

After about a couple of years' gap when we've both kinda lost touch with each other, I began receiving lovely birthday and Christmas cards from you again over the last two years or so. Extremely unfortunately I have failed to return these really heart-warming correspondences... which is an extremely extremely HEINOUS CRIME, and you must be REALLY MAD at me for not returning your mail, and probably thought that either I've moved or I've forgotten you already, and neither of this are true!

Please please hear me out... I wanted to write to you so much but you unfortunately have not included your return address on the envelope in your new snailmails, and because I know that you have moved, or were preparing to move, at least a good few years back I'm not sure to what address I could write to you anymore.

Each time I received your lovely posts I sincerely prayed that you have included a return address, but unfortunately each time I just found my own address on the top of the evelope... I have tried so many different ways of trying to see if I could reach you in other ways - I have written to one of your previous addresses but have not heard back but I knew it was probably not valid anymore... I have emailed numerous times to your old work address (the company where we met during the halcyon days of 1997!), and although they haven't been bounced back, I didn't actually get any replies either... I tried also to email your buddy in this same workplace but then my emails got bounced back from her address. I have also once spent nights trying to see if I could Google you on the Internet and perhaps get your new work address so that I could send you either email or post, and unfortunately I've never managed to locate a Natalie that fits your profile....

So I really hope that you might be able to chance upon this humble blog and realise I'm talking about you... You'll probably recognise me because I guess there aren't that many HK Chinese girl from Ireland who got a summer job in Hong Kong in 1997, and who have been sooooo lucky to meet you and the rest of the gang who have been soooo generous and kind to me. Thank you for your gold Cross pen that you and W gave me as a farewell gift which I absolutely treasure.

I hope your wrists are not giving you as much trouble these days, and I hope your dedication in pursuing all these extra courses paid off and you got your well-deserved additional qualifications. I hope you get a bit more chance to relax now and have gotten your health back and maybe could still indulge in a game of tennis now and again? I hope you managed to avoid and not be bothered anymore by the clingy and gossipy you-know-who colleague... (that is, if you're still working at the same company of course...)

I hope I haven't said too much but I hope I have said enough that you recognise yourself and me. And if so please please realise that I've never forgotten you and it's never my intention to not write back - in fact it was the complete opposite as I miss our conversations and sincerely wish that you haven't given up on me yet due to the unwitting silence on my part.... Please please forgive me.

If you see this and realise who I am and are not mad at me anymore, perhaps you could write me a quick message below, or could you write to me again at my home address and this time put your own snailmail address on the back? I soooooo hope that we could keep properly in touch again... and thank you sooooo much for not forgetting me after all these years and still care enough to ask me how I am...

I'm getting on okay I guess, though not too happy either, still searching for my ideals in life I guess... I have so much to tell you, and I really wonder how you are keeping too? I so much look forward to being able to catch up with you properly about how you've been over the past few years and get all your latest news...

I do hope that you'd see this.... even though the chances may be infinitessmally small as I'm not sure if you'd read blogs at all...

* "4NATLEE" is the personalised number plate of a brilliant red sports car given to the female lead called "Natalie" as a gift for forgiveness by the guy in the very last scene of an American movie whose title and plot I've loooong forgotten, but which is completely apposite to my quest to find my dear friend not only because of the same name, but also because I hope you will indeed forgive me and we will indeed have a happy ending like that film (though not about the romance part of course!!)

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Monday, June 26, 2006

A Rebuttal in Defense of Hong Kong...

A long essay response I've written to Janice Tse over at Diuman Park - ostensibly in regard to the scientist Stephen Hawking's recent visit to Hong Kong, but in effect a rebuttal of her views on private-sector-funded education and the assertion that toeing the Chinese Communist Party's line is in the best interest of Hong Kong and that to suggest otherwise is unpatriotic...

Hi Jane, it's nice to read your thorough comments on the topic, but whilst I agree with your general point that Hawkings as a guest speaker for HKUST really didn't and shouldn't require any welcoming intervention from the HKSAR government (thus the reason I haven't participated in this thread until now), as well as your argument for sustainable policies rather than once-off grandstanding gestures from the government, there are quite a number of points in your essay that I heartily disagree with.

"由一個做了幾十年殖民地高官的人帶領的特區政府,你想它的眼光要幾遠大?有幾多獨立自主的創意?眼光遠大,有獨立思考能力,以人民為福祉的公務員又怎可以受殖民地統治者重用?這類人最容易做反,用得多此等人,連治權也不保。"

I seriously dispute your assertions that civil servants who worked under the UK colonial administration necessarily lacked independent thinking and the interest in serving the public good. You failed to acknowledge the many policies initiated pre-1997 that made HK the international financial centre it is today (the rule of law, state-sponsored free primary and secondary education, low taxation, subsidised social housing, infrastructural development, etc. etc.) No matter how hard people tried to spin otherwise, these are solid achievements that HK people should be justifiably proud of, and these are precisely the kind of far-sighted policies created and implemented by 殖民地公務員. Don't knock everything we've ever achieved in the past just because you happen to think it's in the best interest for HK to follow the Chinese Communist Party's line given the new political context HK people found themselves in. Compared to what CCP has done for its own people in Mainland China, with rife poverty and corruption even to this very day, HK people have done themselves proud. Somehow you forgot that those civil servants you're so disparaging about are actually HK people also.

"再者,活躍與強大的公民社會,才是民主的必要條件,民主要由下而上才能堅固,為何這學術交流也要為政府馬首是瞻?"閙"政府的同時,請思想一下自己想要什麼。君不見美國的名牌大學不是清一式靠企業與私人捐助嗎?君不見特區目前的教育與學校體制不是給政府高官越搞越亂嗎?"

While I whole-heartedly endorse your point that democracy needs to be developed from the bottom-up and that this starts with encouraging citizen participation, I completely disagree with the way you've illogically applied this argument to your assertion that universities should be solely funded by the private sector.

Your cited example of U.S. universities is extremely telling actually. The U.S. third level education system with its polarisation of state-funded community colleges and expensive private Ivy League education is precisely the kind of thing that we do NOT want to see happening to the HK universities. The situation in the U.S. resulted in an ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor not only in terms of actual material ownership but also in terms of equality of opportunity for all citizens when it comes to education.

What you've failed to notice is that many top quality universities in Europe are largely state-funded, where there is an explicit political doctrine for social progress as well as economic progress. Equal access in education for all is not something that would be provided under a private-sector-funded education system - I know, because I have experienced both the European and the U.S. top universities first-hand. The top U.S. schools require their students to pay fees up to tens of thousands of dollars a year; while some Scandinavian countries have free third-level education and in Ireland we have highly-reduced fees because of government funding (and if you're a citizen from other EU countries who come to Ireland to study you can pay these significantly-reduced fees also). This will NEVER happen in a private-sector-funding scenario.

The reason for such divergence in education funding within the West itself is that there are actually different models of democratic capitalism - the liberal democracy of the Anglo-Saxons (i.e. US and the UK) and the social democracy of Continental Europe. And when you actually examine the extent to which there is genuine civic participation in societies, the European model of social democracy wins - just compare the current situation in the U.S. and the U.K. where voters are disenfranchised; to the situation broadly in Europe where an active citizenry is not only allowed but actively encouraged, where the tripartite model provides the framework business, trade unions and the government to work in partnership on economic matters.

"香港的公民與民主意識,何其薄弱?我想,這才是中央不敢放膽給特區直選特首的關鍵。試問一群不肯為保障國家安全的法例也不肯立法的一群,歸屬感與國家認同有多大?我想,假如選出一個陳水扁,到時香港重亂,冇眼睇!"

I laughed out loud when I read the above line: "香港的公民與民主意識,何其薄弱?我想,這才是中央不敢放膽給特區直選特首的關鍵" When has the CCP ever wanted to concern itself with democracy?????? What has the CCP ever done for its own citizens in Mainland China to develop their 公民與民主意識???????? You're not too brainwashed are you that you forgot 1989 Tianamen massacre where innocent and PEACEFUL student protestors were slaughtered because they demanded freedom and democracy?????? And you're not too blinkered to notice the iron grip on free-flow of information and the limit on press freedom CURRENTLY still being exercised by the CCP???????

Your second question about linking the national security legislation with patriotism is the SAME KIND OF RUBBISH that's propagated in the U.S. by the Bush administration which tries to equate criticisms of its nefarious policies (such as the highly restrictive and liberties-destroying Homeland Security Legislation) with an unpatriotic, ungrateful populace. When in fact, NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH. It is an EXTREMELY PATRIOTIC thing to do to hold your own government to account, and to NOT allow the government to pass legislations that curb civil liberties in the way that the 國家安全法 is trying to do.

If you're actually serious about protecting and enabling 公民與民主意識 , then you would NOT be supporting 國家安全法, in the same way that the US and the UK populace are currently vociferous in decrying the terrorism laws that their current morally-bankrupt governments are trying to pass.

"也順帶一提,李家成一心捐款港大,卻引來商界與學界對抗,是否捐錢做善事都要受清算?港人真的要改變港大命名事件、盧少蘭事件等思為,少猜忌,多持感謝之心,不以自己的狹隘利益為依歸,多思想社會的共同利益。"

Nobody is arguing against corporate philanthropy, but the tags and conditions that come with it. If Lee Ka Shing is a true philanthropist, then he would have just made an anonymous donation, rather than tried to change the name of the college and more to the point trying to influence the academic agenda with the soft power that his huge donations bought him. The billions that he gave then is not philanthropy so much as soft money trying to buy academic freedom.

盧少蘭事件 is another curious example for you to cite if you're indeed serious about protecting and enabling 公民與民主意識 and arguing for 民主要由下而上才能堅固. What's wrong with protesting against privatisation plans that have NOT gone through proper public consultation with the very residents of those social housing that are to be privatised? Shouldn't the residents have a say in how things are run for their very own homes?

Your problem is that you've equated promoting the private sector with promoting democracy. The two are NOT the same. In fact, far from it. A business-driven administration is not democracy - it's simply corporate plutocracy, the kind of thing we're seeing happening in America right now.

I really feel that there are many people on both sides of the political spectrum who do genuinely and fervently care about Hong Kong, but much of the fervour often came from distorted information, an ignorance of international political models and a touching naivete either about the CCP or in relation to the U.S. and the U.K. A civics education of the basics of democratic principles and its various implementation forms around the world is sorely needed. Until we all understand the basics of democracy and concepts of civic participation and civil liberties, and the merits and demerits of different democratic election models, we would forever be hurling insults at each other with such unsavoury epithets as "British poodles!", "British and American lap-dogs!", "Traitors to the Chinese People!", "Western Co-conspirators!", "Communist Zombies!", etc. etc.

Would anyone think this could be a topic under the "common curriculum" that ALL secondary school students have to learn? (or is it "common knowledge"? Anyone could kindly give me the official English translaton to this "Tone Sik" subject)?

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Responses to Polly on Seechuen.com re: Picasso

While sorting out my posts I realise there was an old post that was drafted back on the 23rd of June 2006 but never see the light of day. I don't have time to sort these notes out - in any case that debate then with Polly was a looooong time ago - though I'm still going to publish this on here just because... well, that was a lot of energy expended in defending Picasso and I didn't want that going to waste!

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Re: 惜別曙光Posted 46 minutes ago by Snowdrops • @wwwReply
Hi Polly, sorry I just have to respond when you mentioned Picasso, because he is really one of my most admired painters and his paintings are really worth the multi-million pricetags. It's not difficult to "understand" his paintings at all - in fact, he's the most accessible of the Cubist painters. For example, please have a look at the world-famous "Guernica" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guernica_(painting)), and tell me if you don't "understand" why is it so great. The effectiveness of his images of war is such that, when Colin Powell made his announcement of the U.S. decision to go to war in Iraq at the lobby of the UN headquarters, a large tapestry reproduction of Guernica in the lobby was purposefully covered up because the U.S. doesn't want such the troubling reminders of the horrors of war being shown on camera right behind where Colin Powell was. The actual Guernica is located at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid in Spain, together with a lot of other Picasso paintings, and you can see how his ideas developed - the emphasis on clean penetrating forms rather than so much ornate details is a huge breakthrough in how we define "good art". This is most apparent in his series of the Las Meninas paintings, the complete series of which you can see in the Picasso Museum in Barcelona (http://www.museupicasso.bcn.es/eng/collection/cont_collec.htm#p13). Las Meninas itself is a world-famous Old Spanish Masterpiece by Velazquez (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Las_Meninas), with all the details and "photo-quality" finishes that you'd expect from the old masters. Picasso reinterpreted this painting with about thirty or forty paintings of his own, at each stage simplifying or highlighting certain elements in this "drama-rich" picture and trying out different colour forms so that your attention might be shifted from the central princess figure to the dwarf beside her or to the nuns in the background. The expression on the princess's face also undergone different interpretations, so that at some of his paintings she no longer came across as this smug spoilt-brat waiting to be dressed in the original picture, to a little girl too constrained by traditions and all the fuss made about her. Picasso's talent could also be seen very clearly in his sculptures, most notably the cow's head using a bicycle cross-bar as the horns. Seeing the immense possibilities in metaphorical functions in everyday forms is what Picasso's art is about in my humble opinion. You have to remember also that actually, when Picasso first started off, he's already an accomplished painter in the old school style (he could already paint like an old master when he was in his teens - you can see this in his much earlier works), so this accusation by 克勞倫斯.巴榮 that Picasso "是一些毫無技術基礎卻又自抬身價的騙徒" could not be more false. See for yourself at the above link to Picasso's work from the Picasso Museum.I'm actually not too surprised though that a guy who wrote 「華爾街日報」would write such shit about Picasso though, because most of the finance guys I've met are complete philistines. I remember taking undergrad classes from a finance lecturer who, although was nice (albeit very boring) in every other way, says in class that paintings as investments "have no intrinsic value", only what fools are prepared to pay for them. I can still remember how furious when I heard that - my fists actually clenched and I have to stop myself from shouting at him that "That's only what a philistine would say!". Of course I'm not expecting that you would be persuaded by what I wrote above if you are simply not touched by Picasso's art (I would however hope that you have seen the real thing in Spain before making such a presumption - I have seen the real Las Meninas series in Barcelona and the huge Guernica painting in Madrid and their power is not something you can dismiss easily when you come face to face with them in person). Sometimes not everybody gets a particular type of art, and that's just the way things are because we're different people. Like I am completely fanatically in love with Wong Kar Wai's 2046 (have seen this in the cinema three times and not being bored for even 1 minute). But I understand not everyone would see what I see in the movie. I would however ask you to NOT insult the artists, as well as my intelligence and my sensitivity, by calling them imposters and calling us fools. Trackback URL : http://www.seechuen.com/blog/bblog/trackback.php/360/38206/
Re: 惜別曙光Posted 40 minutes ago by Snowdrops • @wwwReply
Amendments made to one of the paragraphs above:"I'm actually not too surprised though that a guy who wrote 「華爾街日報」would write such rubbish about Picasso, because most of the finance guys I've met are complete philistines. I remember taking undergrad classes from a finance lecturer who, although was nice (albeit very boring) in every other way, said in class one time that paintings as investments "have no intrinsic value", only what fools are prepared to pay for them in an over-hyped market. I can still remember how absolutely furious I was when I heard that - I actually clenched my fists and had to stop myself from shouting at him, "That's only what a philistine would say!"."Trackback URL : http://www.seechuen.com/blog/bblog/trackback.php/360/38208/
Re: 惜別曙光Posted 29 minutes ago by Snowdrops • @wwwReply
Oh, and another thing, one of the key reasons why Picasso turned away from old masters' style to explore simple forms and primary colours was because of his stated wish "to draw like a child". So his Cubist painters are actually meant to be a rejection of all that was thought to be pretensious and "high-art" - precisely the same kind of rejection that you're arguing for. It's just unfortunate that people's minds have been so clouded by preconceived hype that they can't see the paintings for what they actually are. You don't need to "think" to understand Picasso's work, you feel it. Trackback URL : http://www.seechuen.com/blog/bblog/trackback.php/360/38211/
Re: 惜別曙光Posted 27 minutes ago by Snowdrops • @wwwReply
Arrgh, I meant "his Cubist paintings" not "his Cubist painters"!! See Chuen, is there any way you can have a preview and edit function for your comments?Trackback URL : http://www.seechuen.com/blog/bblog/trackback.php/360/38212/


Re: 惜別曙光Posted 5 hours ago by 寶莉 • • • Reply
謝謝, Snowdrops 給我留了這一長串的留言, 打字一定很辛苦了, 就是為了避免辛苦, 我通常都希望自己的留言能一句起兩句止, 就完美了, 所以Snowdrops , 你給我打了這麼多字, 真的讓我受寵若驚! 再謝!!***********我覺得我必需再一次的承認我是一個油畫的門外漢, 我對畢卡索的畫, 只是單純的從觀感出發, 從誠實的自我出發。若了解、明白, 必需是事前做很多很多的資料搜集, 從畫的源為始, 至下筆、 著墨、構圖、佈局...等等等的技術細節為終, 然後我告訴你, 我了解、我明白"Guernica"畫中對戰爭的種種描述了, 然後我只好坦白的承認, 我的明白、了解是不誠實的, 我只是被解釋明白、了解而已, 本質上, 我已然一無所知, 如同我的起始。觀畫, 其實是一個很個人的感受, 有些人看了"Guernica"會下淚, 有些人看了會心有戚戚然, 亦有些人看的一頭冒水汗滴滴, 如我, 但我是在公然侮辱畢大師嗎? 不, 我只是想做個誠實的人吧了!!!************但你說到畢老的油畫如此的價值連城, 足見其地位超卓, 這又讓我想起了太多的商業考量來, 一些商業投資的炒作, 如今已讓買賣油畫成了一門非常專業的商業活動了, 對不起, 我俗不可耐的毛細胞又在蠢蠢欲動了, 對不起!!!**********p.s. "是一些毫無技術基礎卻又自抬身價的騙徒", 這一句引言的確有貶意, 我為我的疏忽致歉, 希望不會像森美、小儀那樣被罰就好了!! ^^"" (噢!)Trackback URL : http://www.seechuen.com/blog/bblog/trackback.php/360/38360/
Re: 惜別曙光Posted 2 hours ago by 寶莉 • • • Reply
嗯~ 吃飽飽! 無聊, 又跑回來插兩句, 思仔同學仔莫怪莫怪喎! 嘻!***********難得心頭好, 一幅畫當然是可以"worth" multimillions 的, 若我能力許可的話, 買間PCCW 返來比個仔當玩具玩下都得, 更何況藝術是無價的, 我深信。講起藝術, 有回我在灣仔藝術中心看了個裝置藝術展, 其中一個展品是申請了兩條電話線, 擺了兩個電話, 寫了兩個電話號碼, 然後題為「溝通」, 哇, 真係勁爆的藝術呀!!!! 仲要係兩個普通的辦公室白色電話呀!!!! 貼題都不得了呀!!!! 但係我真係唔明, 這是那一門子的藝術??? 就咁show 兩0舊0野出來, 就話是藝術, 唔好呃鬼咁話:「生活就是藝術」呀!!! 咁, 我一0舊肥0野咁目訓係個場度, 都可以題為「孤眠」囉~~還有一回, 在牛柵的某活動中, 有個人著到成棵樹咁走來走去, 仲不停咁同人講他的這個裝置藝術就是「如何在石屎森林中綠化環境」喎~ 唉! 大哥呀! 我真係大鄉里囉!!! 還以為他在扮美軍在打遊擊戰添!!! 失禮死人囉~~ ^^""" (噢..噢...噢!!!)Trackback URL : http://www.seechuen.com/blog/bblog/trackback.php/360/38397/
Re: 惜別曙光Posted 2 hours ago by 寶莉 • • • Reply
有時我真的攪不懂甚麼是爐火純青??甚麼是班門弄斧?? 也難怪小丑朋友的詰問的, 我撫心, 確然捉到了心虛。Trackback URL : http://www.seechuen.com/blog/bblog/trackback.php/360/38401/
Re: 惜別曙光Posted a few seconds ago by Snowdrops • @wwwReply
(Sincere apologies in advance to See Chuen for engaging in this debate in your blog space...)Polly said "謝謝, Snowdrops 給我留了這一長串的留言, 打字一定很辛苦了, 就是為了避免辛苦, 我通常都希望自己的留言能一句起兩句止, 就完美了, 所以Snowdrops , 你給我打了這麼多字, 真的讓我受寵若驚! 再謝!!"Thanks Polly for your rather long-winded condescension. Just because English takes up more space and more words by the sheer nature of its sentence structures doesn't mean that I had to work really hard to type up a "1000 word" post. Your post above would have contained as much equivalent words if not more in English... I admire your stated attempt to "希望自己的留言能一句起兩句止, 就完美了"... but I have to say I didn't realise that was your wish actually, judging by all the quotes and citations you have written before on this blog... I thought you were asking for some intelligent debate... I guess I guessed wrong...Also, I went to the trouble of including the website links in my discussion of Picasso's art only because of how you have slagged off the other poster above for not bothering to post you the link to Susan Sontag's work but "lazily" asked you to Google it instead. "喂, 小丑呀, 好人做到底好冇呀! 直呈link 個 website 0黎啦, 咪要人自己search 咁衰啦~~"Now I realise that 做好人冇好"Po" as you would just be condescending either way... "我覺得我必需再一次的承認我是一個油畫的門外漢, 我對畢卡索的畫, 只是單純的從觀感出發, 從誠實的自我出發。若了解、明白, 必需是事前做很多很多的資料搜集, 從畫的源為始, 至下筆、 著墨、構圖、佈局...等等等的技術細節為終, 然後我告訴你, 我了解、我明白"Guernica"畫中對戰爭的種種描述了, 然後我只好坦白的承認, 我的明白、了解是不誠實的, 我只是被解釋明白、了解而已, 本質上, 我已然一無所知, 如同我的起始。觀畫, 其實是一個很個人的感受, 有些人看了"Guernica"會下淚, 有些人看了會心有戚戚然, 亦有些人看的一頭冒水汗滴滴, 如我, 但我是在公然侮辱畢大師嗎? 不, 我只是想做個誠實的人吧了!!!"Erm, you have totally misrepresented what I said in order to assert your "honesty" - or more accurately, you've appropriated my arguments and tried to argue that they were your assertions instead. If you care to read my "1000-word" post that you think I've so painstakingly constructed, perhaps you would notice that I said the following:"Of course I'm not expecting that you would be persuaded by what I wrote above if you are simply not touched by Picasso's art ...Sometimes not everybody gets a particular type of art, and that's just the way things are because we're different people. Like I am completely fanatically in love with Wong Kar Wai's 2046 (have seen this in the cinema three times and not being bored for even 1 minute). But I understand not everyone would see what I see in the movie...""You don't need to "think" to understand Picasso's work, you feel it."Somehow you won't acknowledge the fact that I have made the precise point you've just translated into Chinese: "觀畫, 其實是一個很個人的感受, 有些人看了"Guernica"會下淚, 有些人看了會心有戚戚然, 亦有些人看的一頭冒水汗滴滴, 如我". Why did you put words in my mouth? At no point did I suggested that you're being "dishonest" in saying that you don't like Picasso, because, as I said, we're all different people and have different tastes in art. However, again, what I would ask you to do, is to drop your condescension and "NOT insult the artists, as well as my intelligence and my sensitivity, by calling them imposters and calling us fools". And please accept that you have indeed "公然侮辱畢大師" by citing that guy who wrote Picasso is one of those "一些毫無技術基礎卻又自抬身價的騙徒"... If you are indeed 只是想做個誠實的人吧了, then please realise how patently false and insulting this statement - calling Picasso a 毫無技術基礎 person is like calling Beethoven a fraud. You might not appreciate Beethoven but please don't insult him by saying he has no talent. That's not too much to ask, is it?"但你說到畢老的油畫如此的價值連城, 足見其地位超卓, 這又讓我想起了太多的商業考量來, 一些商業投資的炒作, 如今已讓買賣油畫成了一門非常專業的商業活動了, 對不起, 我俗不可耐的毛細胞又在蠢蠢欲動了, 對不起!!!"Of course the arts these days have been completely commercialised - but that is NOT the same as saying that Art "has no intrinsic value" - which was the claim that I was objecting to in my rather "honest" (to use your phrase) and perhaps naive way. "藝術是無價的, 我深信。" That was actually the point I was making... "p.s. "是一些毫無技術基礎卻又自抬身價的騙徒", 這一句引言的確有貶意, 我為我的疏忽致歉, 希望不會像森美、小儀那樣被罰就好了!! ^^"" (噢!)"Oh, so you can read my blog and see that I totally disagree with Sammy/Siu Yee.. too bad I am not as extremist as you tried to make me out to be... and too bad you didn't notice at no point I compared your original comments to their dissembling...When I was writing my original post I thought I was engaging in a sincere and hopefully open-minded, albeit earnestly-argued debate, but my simple request to ask for an insult-free discussion just resulted in more condescension... I guess that's my naviete then and I should learn better than to respond next time I happen to disagree with what you say... p.s. Sometimes I really wish I can type Chinese so that there is no room for any (deliberate) misunderstanding... Trackback URL : http://www.seechuen.com/blog/bblog/trackback.php/360/38420/

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Attempted Break-in... Epilogue

After the high drama of Monday morning, life settles into the mundane business of securing our home and hearth. The Gardai never found those fellas who tried to break into our house, and recommended us instead to install further screw-type locks on our windows and glass doors. My step-dad went around and had a chat with the neighbours, and found out that actually, one other family (the son of the supermarket tycoon) also got robbed sometime ago - in this case the guys actually took the whole glass pane from out of its window frame in the front window of the study and climbed in and helped themselves. The alarm wasn't set off at all because the actual frame remained intact and wasn't moved.

Christ almighty, robbers these days must be learning their tricks from Tom Cruise or something!

The most eerie thing that happened afterwards was that my younger brother, when coming home from work yesterday, found that there was a car with darkened windows staying outside our house, and it's only after a while that they drove away (I still have to get the proper low-down on this from him though - how could he not have noted down their number-plate?! And the whole thing really sounds just a tad too cop-thrillerish to be honest).

To be honest though I was a wee bit shaken by the whole thing, after all I think one guy has seen me and when I was leaving for work yesterday I was looking about me to see if there are any suspicious characters. I can't imagine what somebody who actually suffered through an actual robbery must have felt like, and I think our neighbours (both the Chinese family friend as well as the tycoon's son) are very brave for having lived through it and not to have it visibly affect their lives.

But friends are the best thing that helped remedy my overblown fears, of course! Having coffee with K yesterday helped me get over it - I began to see the funny side of things when I recounted what happened to her as the whole thing turned into a bit of an anecdote. I mean, What stupid theives! How useless are the Gardai! How gross yet how hilarious to discover your parents naked in an emergency! How lucky for my family that I am an insomniac! Okay... I guess the whole thing IS funny. K related also the story of a friend of a friend whose house got robbed a grand total of 6 times because he has a rare car and the theives went to his house a total of 6 times to try to find his keys... I'm not sure if this is a new variety of "suburban legend" because wouldn't it be just a whole lot easier to hot-wire the car?? I mean, what if the guy went to sleep with his car key?

Anyway, I stayed home to work today, because my mum was saying that if I left for work then when I come back and see anyone suspicious I should go to our neighbour's house and ask them to go with me to open the front door... It's just a whole lot easier to stay at home and "house-sit" and having my mobile close to me at all times. Anyway, my parents are back now with a window systems type sales guy who, after having checked our windows and glass doors, quoted us a whopping price of 6,000 euros to replace the lot!! (While coming up with his estimate he cheerfully told us to watch his company DVD - "It would only take youse eight minutes!" - of course we didn't bother).

Whilst we won't be getting our windows replaced, we're installing motion-sensors in our backgarden (we used to have them in our previous house actually but don't know why we didn't get around to getting these for the new house). My mum was talking about having a guard dog but I completely voted against it because I have heard enough stories of rottweilers and such like biting off the faces of women and children (like that French woman who had to have the pioneering face-replacement surgery recently), and I don't want to see my little sis and bro hurt nor indeed our neighbours' kids. Anyway, the neighbourhood is also a bit more vigilant as well. There are talks of installing a gate to our estate entrance, though I'm not sure how practical that'd be. In any case, it's the construction yard at the back of our estate that we're more concerned about, and I'm not sure if we'd know who we should talk to about securing that place...

Anyway, the whole thing's made me yearn all the more for my own apartment, yet I never get the chance to get at least my mortgage approval sorted, even though I've been browsing all these cool stores online, stores that are actually NOT in Ireland so all I could do was drool (like MOMA, Neiman Marcus, Crate and Barrel, and Hong Kong's G.O.D. - the last I only learnt about from a Canadian-Chinese friend when I visited her in Vancouver back in April). I even have an Excel file now comparing prices and dimensions of favourite pieces of furniture across multiple websites, and am itching to just buy the whole lot rather than keep having my dream items stored on wish lists and online shopping bags because I have not yet found a place to put them in... In the meantime I could only satisfy my "interior-decorating" urges by revamping the look of this blog... sad eh??

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Omigod, two theives tried to break into our house just now!

Thank goodness I am an insomniac and have been just browsing blogs on my laptop in the wee hours of the morning just now*, when I heard the conservatory doors at the back being forced open. I thought it was just strong winds at first, or even stray cats turning over our rubbish bins, but then the banging noise was really loud and "man-made" somehow and I sneaked a peek through my curtains. I saw the conservatory door wide-open, could hear the wind and saw the tree branches being blown this way and that, so I thought it was indeed the wind and I was about to close the curtains when I saw a tall guy in a bright yellow jacket stepping onto the wooden decking outside our kitchen. I mentally freaked out and was scared that he saw me as well (though I think he did see me). But anyway I immediately ran to my parents' bedroom and yelled that someone was in our backgarden trying to break in. My parents were stark naked and my step-dad immediately jumped up from out of the bed without bothering to put on any clothes and ran to my little brother's bedroom to look out the window there**, and then ran downstairs while I yelled at him not to go down and at the same time I ran into my room and frantically tried to locate my mobile to ring the police, because I was really scared that the guy actually got in and jesus christ it took me some time to find my phone in my handbag because as usual my bag was full of stuff. Anyway I got it and I got through on the first ring and stated immediately my address and said that somebody is out the back trying to break into our home, and the operator had to ask me if we're in Dublin because I forgot to say the town where we're in, only the name of our estate (I was used to ringing the local cab company who only needed the first line of our address). Anyway I was then immediately forwarded to the local Garda*** station and I repeated the same statement, and have to tell them where we are located again (this is bloody incredible that even though our estate has been built for almost two years now the local Garda still don't quite know where we are). The operator said that they would send someone straight away.

While I was talking on the phone my step-dad had already ran back upstairs and into my little brother's bedroom, and opened the window wide and screamed bloody murder at the theives. Thank goodness this actually scared them off and they scarpered over the back wall, which borders a construction area so it was quite easy for them to get away. Apparently my step-dad saw two fellas although I only saw one myself. By now all the family was up including my little brother of course though my little sister stayed in her bed. We went downstairs turning on all the lights and surveyed the damage, and my mum discovered that our kitchen glass door wasn't actually locked!! Thank goodness the theives never thought to try the kitchen door or they could have went straight through without a peep (although my younger brother pointed out that even if they just slide the door open our house alarm would go off and this would have alerted the local Garda station immediately because our alarm system was linked to the station). My mum kept saying that one of us should have checked that all the doors were locked before we went to bed but then I said that actually checking the doors is their chore also... thankfully this didn't developed into a blaming row as this was obviously the last thing we needed...

Anyway we switched on all our backgarden lights and waited for the guards, and it took them ages to come - it felt like ages anyway as it took about 20 minutes or so and who knows by then what would happen if those guys have actually broken in? My step-dad rang the local garda station again and while talking to them my little sister was saying that the Guards were here as she could see them through her bedroom windows. So my step-dad opened the front-door but then realised it was actually locked, and while he was getting the keys to open it I happened to look back at the kitchen and saw a woman standing there which gave me a fright until a split second later I realised she was actually a Gardai. Apparently our side door was open so the Guards just came in through the side entrance. I opened the kitchen door for her and then saw another male Gardai also in our backyard. She asked us whether the guys actually went into the house and my step-dad said that they went back over the wall because he scared them off by screaming at them from upstairs. She then asked us to describe them and I said that one tall guy was wearing a bright yellow, long-sleeved jacket, and that he has a full-head of hair rather than being a skin-head, and that he's probably in his early 20's. She asked also what kind of built he was and I described him as a lanky fellow, and that he's even taller than the male guard. I also described how I noticed them because of the noise at the back because my bedroom faced out to the back and is directly above the conservatory, and how I peeked through my bedroom curtains and noticed a bright yellow figure stepping hesitantly onto our wooden decking. Thank goodness indeed that the guy was wearing bright yellow clothing because otherwise I really wouldn't have seen him at all as it was still dark out. My step-dad said that he saw two guys but unfortunately he didn't quite see the second guy because they were then trying to climb back over the wall and he couldn't quite make them out (apart from the yellow-clad guy of course).

While we were giving descriptions the male Gardai climbed onto the top of our backyard walls to survey the area, especially the back of our estate which is a construction site. He asked us what the other house was at the back also and my step-dad explained that it belongs to the ex-wife of an Irish middle-weight boxing champion****. The male Gardai saw nothing but stayed up there for quite some time and both he and the woman Gardai radioed back to the station to give a description of the guy. She then said to us that they are sending a car out to go around the area to see if they could find anyone with that description wandering in the area. My step-dad helped the male guard climb down the wall, both Garda stayed for a bit and then they left saying that they would patrol the area in their car also.

All the adults in the family by now were wide awake and we went checking all our locks again and again. It seems that our glass door between the conservatory and the second lounge room was a bit loose and they really could have made it in. I closed all the windows of the conservatory even though my mum said that it's pointless to do this now but I persisted, saying that if we just left them open and allow those guys to just walk in then our only other "defense" is the glass door that connects the conservatory to our second lounge room. My mum again said thank goodness that the theives didn't came through the kitchen door because it was actually unlocked, while I was thinking also that thank God they didn't bring a hammer or something with them to break the glass because all our doors at the back are glass doors. My little brother also came downstairs saying that he couldn't sleep, but he wasn't scared really - in fact, by then we weren't scared at all, as the scariness had turned into some kind of perverse excitement. I was saying to my family that it was lucky I couldn't go to sleep and was wide-awake at the time because otherwise I wouldn't have bothered getting up or I wouldn't have heard the noise at all.

After a bit when we checked all the locks and re-set the alarm again, my mum suggested that I should just get something to eat and then go back to bed. I was looking for cup noodles, however we didn't have any unfortunately. I then went to the washroom which is beside our kitchen, and then realised also how lucky we were that those guys didn't try to come in through the utility room because again our door has a big glass panel. I opened the washroom door with a bit of trepidation because I wasn't sure if one of them would hide in the kitchen area (after all the kitchen door was unlocked and they could have come in). When I came out my mum called to me - which made me jump - and she said that I should not just drink tea (which was what I was going to do as I put on the kettle already) but should eat something as well. Anyway she went back upstairs, and while waiting for the kettle to boil I went around the rooms downstairs and looked behind the doors because I was worried that perhaps one of them was hiding in the nooks and cranies during the commotion that ensued. Thankfully that wasn't the case of course.

I drank my tea and had little muffins in the kitchen while staring out the backgarden. By then I was feeling a bit defiant - that if those bastards were to come back up I would face them and throw hot water at them and would even brandish our kitchen knife if need be (!). A little while later my younger brother came back downstairs and asked me if those guys were Chinese (our only other Chinese neighbour in this rather affluent estate actually was robbed not long after we've moved in, by Mainland Chinese guys posing as pizza delivery guys*****). I am positive that the guy I saw was Irish even though he does have dark hair. We also discussed whether those guys were first-time theives - my contention was that they must be because who would have thought of wearing a bright yellow jacket to rob a house? My brother contended instead that they must be experienced and so they boldly wore bright clothing because they were too confident, and that they had the savvy to plan their escape route well because they immediately scarpered back over the wall which allowed them an easy escape as it borders a construction site, and so they must also have known the area quite well, and in fact could have been one of the construction guys themselves (my brother was initially asking me whether by bright-yellow jacket I meant the type worn by construction people, but actually it was more like a sports jacket). However, I think that even as first time theives they must have already thought of an escape route, because they have to plan how to leave even if they were successful in looting our house, because they are hardly going to leave through the front door. Anyway, my brother also surveyed all the rooms downstairs to double-check if anyone happened to be hiding behind doors, etc. I guess by then we had a bit of paranoia also...

I finished my tea anyway and went back upstairs. I am too excited to sleep and thus am typing up this account on my blog even though I really should go to bed because I still have two papers to write and I need to rest. The whole thing really is too surreal to be true and I might as well record it here while the memory is still fresh. Who knows if the Garda actually found those guys - the chances of that happening though is rather slim****** - then at least I have a record of the events right here.

Dawn has come and there are birdsongs outside - it's almost 6am now*******. When I heard the noise first it was near 4am. Hopefully this experience is never to be repeated. Ever.

* This is exactly like the Chinese proverb about how losing a horse could be a fortunate thing, because I have not been sleeping well for quite some time now and I worried about my health, now I realised that I was really lucky not to have slept well.
** Rather like Bridget Jones I'm valiantly excising those traumatising images from my memory. It's not that hard though as obviously I made a point not to look, thank God.
*** Garda is the Irish word for the "police"; Gardai is a policeman or policewoman (i.e. singular). Sometimes we also call them the "Guards" in English.
**** Our estate is actually bordered by two famous residences - one as I said is the former home of the Irish middle-weight boxing champion; the other is the estate of a supermarket tycoon. So it's doubly stupid that the local Garda didn't quite know where we are.
***** This must have given the impression that we're living in a bad neighbourhood with all these robberies going on but that really isn't the case at all. It's an affluent neighbourhood but it's rather unfortunate that the two robberies (well at least in our case it was only attempted, thank goodness) both happened to the two Chinese families in the estate. Though this has nothing to do with race either because as I said the first robbery was actually committed by Mainland Chinese guys who were almost professional in their approach; whilst the two lads in our backgarden were probably just chancing their arms to be honest.
****** It's now almost 5pm in the late afternoon and we haven't heard back from the Garda yet so I guess they didn't managed to catch anyone.
******* Even though the time-stamp at the bottom of this post says 4:39am, in reality it was 5:39am when I posted this up because the Blogger set time for "Eire" actually is inaccurate for Summer time because it is meant to be 1 hour behind (to re-adjust for the fact that in Winter we bring our clock forward by 1 hour).

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Footie on the Telly...

Of course the World Cup mania is upon us, even though it's much more subdued than the last time because we didn't make it into the finals. The only match I have watched from start to finish is the one yesterday afternoon between the little-renowed Czech Republic and the even-more-little-known Ghana, but oh! What a match that was! Even a non-footy-maniac like me was completely hooked and stayed watching the whole thing - because, for once, it really was a beautiful game.

First off, things got off to a civilised start because you can see the Ghanaians were really friendly when they came on the pitch and the two teams shook hands before the opening whistle. And then the amazing goal within 2 minutes by Ghana, and from then on we were treated to a nail-biting match between both sides actually hungering to win and eager to advance to strike goals. Many brilliant attempts were made on both sides, but of course the sheer joy of the Ghanaians on the field was infectious - Michael Essien tried again and again to score the second goal and never let up the pressure on the Czechs, and he was foiled again and again by the beautiful saves by Petr Czech, and yet of course, they kept trying. They so totally deserved to win.

Even the yellow-cards were fair. Yes there were fouls - but these were "fair fouls" rather than mean and nasty fouls committed by the likes of Roy Keane, say (oh yes of course I am being critical of the Cork man, so sue me!). The Ghanaians, despite racking up a total of 7 yellow cards, played fair and square in my opinion - humble or not. Yes they jostled the Czechs a bit, but they helped them up afterwards and the same vice versa. Their sense of fair play and mutual respect is what made this game beautiful.

Go on Ghana! I'd be cheering for you all the rest of the way!

On another note: it was a bit of a surprise to see a black player on the Japanese team this afternoon, but also great - football is becoming the great equaliser as far as ethnic relations are concerned, and that could only be a good thing. Of course, things have still a long way to go, just compare these to the ugliness of English football, with its racism and hooliganism. Still, I'm grateful that at least, every four years there is a chance to see football being played as a uniter of nations - "developed" and "less developed" alike.

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Sound familiar?

To those who still care about the "debate" or lack thereof regarding the Sammy-Siu Yee "indecent assault" poll on their popular phone-in radio show whose audience composed mainly of young people, does the following excuses that would be used by U.S. Republicans to valiantly defend that vile Ann Coulter sound familiar?

We all know that is not how things work in today's America where environmentalists and Quakers are viewed as threats, but vitriol-spewing right-wing extremists are supposedly just misunderstood. And as much as I like the make-them-take-a-stand suggestion, that will also only work in a world where politicians are honest and genuinely care about the common folk. In reality, politicians are skilled at avoidance. In this case, something like the following scenarios would be more likely:
1. [to a republican ideologue]
Q: Do you agree with Coulter?
A: I respect Rep. Murtha and obviously I wouldn't wish violence against anyone, but I think the humorless liberals and the liberal media are blowing this way out of proportion. It wasn't in the best of taste, but those who know her know that she is passionate and can sometimes get carried away with respect to her unusual sense of humor.
Q: So you're condoning this threat?
A: I am not condoning threats, especially non-existent ones. I am condoning freedom of speech rather than political correctness.
And so on.
2. [to a media outlet]
Q: Aren't you afraid you will be seen as agreeing with her positions by giving her air time? A: Her opinions are not ours, but like everyone she has the right to express them.
Q: Everyone? So we can expect to see Michael Moore on your show in the future?
A: Yes [which will, of course, be an outright lie].
And so on.
However it plays out, the republogues will avoid getting nailed down and try to use the opportunity to make points against liberals. When they push for yes/no votes, they are just as interested in democratic obfuscations as they are the actual vote- they make for great sound bites to use as chum for ignoramuses.

(Original emphasis, Iconoclast comment, on Salon.com story regarding Ann Coulter's remarks of "fragging" Democrat Representative Jack Murtha)

One could easily see the parallel between how feminists and the general public are being vilified as "humourless prudes" in Hong Kong and those same unsavoury epithets being applied to the U.S. Democrats by their opponents in order to obfuscate their very legitimate arguments. In fact, the more I read of HK's mainstream media the more such unsavoury parallels I see in what passes for public discourses these days - Democrats in HK and the U.S. being villified as "unpatriotic" and "conspiring with the national enemies" by the sitting governments for daring to criticise their policies; the existence of blabbermouths on the progressives' sides (To Git in HK, Michael Moore in U.S.) which served as convenient strawmen for the opposing camp; and basically the utter uselessness of the Democrats in mounting any kind of genuine and effective opposition to the sitting government because of in-fighting and the lack of a cohesive message.

The utter uselessness of the Democrats in HK however is also a result of the utter confusion in political lineage of its present parties, with a complete blurring of lines between Left and Right as traditionally-understood in the West, as well as a lack of education regarding the differences between social versus liberal democratic traditions.

The difference between HK and the US is that the Right and the Left are completely reversed: the Communist Left in HK is very very different from the Liberal Left in US, or the Socialist Left in Ireland and the UK, for that matter. The split between the fiscal and the social in Hong Kong could not be more stark: conservatives in the social sense is a very different kettle of fish to conservatives in the fiscal sense. Whilst almost all of the 8 millions HK populace would be very libertarian and almost neo-liberal in their economic leanings, which stemmed from a cultural reaction against the Communist ethic in Mainland China (which itself is currently going through a honey-moon period of embracing market economics); the vast majority of Hong-kongers would not identify themselves as socially conservative (in contrast to the US bible-thumping conservative Right-wingers), as these are characteristics that they would assign to the Communist Left. In fact, while Bible-thumping is the remit of the morally-conservative Right-wingers in the U.S., in HK Christians are broadly seen as those who support and champion socially-progressive measures.

The really sad thing about the Sammy-SiuYee affair is that it has been politicised beyond recognition over what should have been a straight-forward issue of balancing your freedom to swing your fists to end where your neighbour's nose begins. Feminists who are pioneering promoters of sexual freedoms for women were being labelled as humourless nuns too uptight to understand sex, or as moralistic "C-9" (gossiping housewives) having nothing better to do than to meddle in young people's affairs. Very few people see such unfounded stereotyping as another stinging attack on women and their right-to-dissent, instead, "sophisticated" commentators pride themselves on analysing this as a political game of tit-for-tat: the enemy of your enemy is your friend and so, by the same token of illogic, the feminists must be at fault because their voices were used to chime in with the HKSAR government's agenda in suppressing freedom of the press. If one dares to voice the common liberal idea of balancing rights with responsibilities as understood in the West, she would be attacked as daring to collude with the government in compromising freedom of speech, much like the Republican example above.

So the common meanings of Left in the West are rather lost in HK, with the label being used to signal that you're supporting the Chinese Communist Party rather than identifying yourself as socially progressive. It's a huge irony that "Long Hair" wears his collection of Che Guevara t-shirts day in day out and yet he's seen as a champion against the Mainland Chinese's illiberal edicts, an irony produced by the fact that the CCP is currently neither socialist in social welfare (much like New Labour, no?) nor was it ever progressive on matters of individual liberty (sticking true to its Stalinist guns).

At the same time, you have Liberal Democrats like Martin Lee - with his blind faith in free market economics during the Asian financial crisis, and ill-conceived calls for Western support to initiate democracy in HK when the governments in those same countries (US and the UK) are cynically betraying the very ideals of democracy to their own citizens - serving as a reverse rallying point for those moderates who would not otherwise be as fervent in supporting the Mainland Chinese government. As a result legitimate Social Democrats like Cheung-Yan Lee - who are concerned with social welfare issues as well as right for self-governance - are smeared as "British poodles" because they also happened to call themselves "Democrats".

The amazing thing is that, independent politicians, who should really have known better, are prepared to continue to saddle themselves with this label. However, without a general understanding of the meanings behind the Left/Right labels and, more importantly, the difference between the Anglo-Saxon versus the Continental European models of democratic capitalism, "Democrats" in HK will be continually misunderstood and villified by the voting public, because the majority of HK people are labouring under a misapprehension. So in addition to seeing the "democratic" ideals being taken in vain by quasi-democrats, be prepared to see more false accusations against legitimate promoters of civic freedoms by those who are supporting anything but, and/or by those who are too naive to know the difference or too feckless to care.

I really want to get over the whole Sammy/Siuyee affair, yet I despair for Hong Kong sometimes, I really do.

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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Smile... Everything's Just Wonderful...

Go Lily! Biting social commentary in a sugary summery tune... Everything's just wonderful...

No I do think
Everything, everyone, is going mental
It seems to me, it's spiralling
Out of control
And it's inevitable

Now don't you think
This time is yours, this time is mine
It's temperamental.

It seems to me
We're on all fours
Crawlin' on our knees someone helps us please!

Oh Jesus christ-almighty
Do I feel alright? No, not slightly.
I wanna get a flat and know I can't afford it
It's just the bureaucrats that won't give me a mortgage
It's very funny cos I got your fuckin' money
And I'm never gonna get it just cos of my bad credit

Oh well I guess I mustn't grumble...
I suppose it's just the way the cookie crumbles...

Oh yes I'm fine...
Everything's just wonderful...
I'm having the time of my life...

If everyone (want)
Something else, something new
Than what we've got here.

And don't you feel
It's all the same
Some sick game
And it's so insincere.

I wish I could
Change the ways
Of the world
Make it a nice place.
Until that day
I guess we stay
Doing what we do
Screwin' who we screw.

Babababa....

Why can't I sleep at night?
Don't say it's gonna be alright.
I wanna be able to eat spaghetti bolognese
And not feel bad about it for days and days and days

All my magazines they talk about weight loss
If I buy those jeans I could look like Kate Moss!

I know it's not the life that I chose...
But I guess it's just the way that things go...

Oh yes I'm fine
Everything's just wonderful
I'm having the time of my life...

Oh yes I'm fine
Everything's just wonderful
I'm having the time of my life...

Bababababababababa.........

Oh Jesus christ-almighty
Do I feel alright? No, not slightly.
I wanna get a flat and know I can't afford it
It's just the bureaucrats that won't give me a mortgage
It's very funny cos I got your fuckin' money
And I'm never gonna get it just cos of my bad credit

Oh well I guess I mustn't grumble...
I suppose it's just the way the cookie crumbles...

Oh yes I'm fine...
Everything's just wonderful...
I'm having the time of my life...

Oh yes I'm fine...
Everything's just wonderful...
I'm having the time of my life...


Then have a listen to this lovely and sarcastically-funny song and tell me you won't Smile:

When you first left me
I was wantin' more...
But you were fuckin' that girl next door
What do you do that for?

When you first left me
I didn't know what to say...
I've never been on my own that way
Just slept by myself for days

I was so lost back then
But with a little help from my friends
I found the light in the tunnel at the end...

Now you're calling me up on the phone
So you can have a little whine and a moan
And it's only because you're feeling alone...

At first,
When I see you cry...
And it makes me smile...
Yeah it makes me smile...

At worse,
I feel bad for a while...
But then I just smile...
I go ahead and smile....

Whenever you see me
You say that you want me back...
And I tell you it don't mean jack
No it don't mean jack...

I couldn't stop laughing
Now I just couldn't help myself...
See you mess up my mental health
I was quite unwell...

I was so lost back then
But with a little help from my friends
I found the light in the tunnel at the end...

But you're calling me up on the phone
Just to have a little whine and a moan
And it's only because you're feeling alone...

At first,
When I see you cry...
And it makes me smile...
Yeah it makes me smile...

At worse,
I feel bad for a while...
But then I just smile...
I go ahead and smile....

Lalalalalalala..........

Lalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalala..............

At first,
When I see you cry...
And it makes me smile...
Yeah it makes me smile...

At worse,
I feel bad for a while...
But then I just smile...
I go ahead and smile....

At first,
When I see you cry...
And it makes me smile...
Yeah it makes me smile...

At worse,
I feel bad for a while...
But then I just smile...
I go ahead and smile....

Lalalalalalala..........

At first,
When I see you cry...
And it makes me smile...
Yeah it makes me smile...

Lalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalala..............

At worse,
I feel bad for a while...
But then I just smile...
I go ahead and smile....

I go ahead and smile.....

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Poem for the Times We're in...

If...

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

--- by Rudyard Kipling

Just thought the above poem couldn't have said it better in the context of the current times we live in... except that I would like to make the last sentence more relevant to my sisters-in-arms in HK:

And--which is more--you'll be a Woman, my sis!

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Monday, June 12, 2006

Neanderthals: The "New" Hong Kong Male

I wasn't going to delve further into the whole Sammy/SiuYee affair than what I have already previously contributed on both my own blog and others. But the more I read the responses the more I realise that there is a new gender dynamic at work: the rearing of the ugly head of proud Neanderthals amongst some of the male population in Hong Kong, who disingenuosly masquerade themselves as sexually-enlightened forward thinkers in this debate when they are nothing but. Witness the online exchanges from 袁建滔‧門外看 's blog (which I linked through Jacky's blog), who concluded that "森美小儀真正的錯誤,是在一個偽善、缺乏幽默感、以道德口號管治的城市開這個壞品味玩笑". Reading the comments below this post is even more disheartening in terms of the amount of illogic being propagated in support of such a view.

The following are my online contributions - if I have a chance later to write these thoughts up properly into a single essay I will. But for now these are my initial reactions to the nonsensical arguments being put forward.

Snowdrops said...
1. There is a huge difference between sexual fantasies and sexual assault (and 非禮 is sexual assault).

2. There is a whole world of difference between sexual assault and sexual conservatism. The key is whether the sexual contact is CONSENSUAL. Surely this should have been a lesson in Sex Education 101. Arguing against promotion of sexual assault in the media DOES NOT EQUATE arguing for sexual conservatism, in the same way that arguing against idiotic polls that promote acceptance of the idea of bank robbery (hey let's name ten banks you would most like to rob) does not equate arguing for fiscal conservatism.

3. There is a huge difference between "Repressive Government", "Hypocritical Next/East/Apple Media", "Prudish Moralists", and ordinary people and women's voluntary organisations. Don't lump all legitimate critics as "illiberal-brainless-prudes-afraid-of-sex-and-stirred-up-by-hypocritical-mass-media-conspiring-with-the-repressive-government-agenda". Don't insult the public's intelligence and place oneself on the "intelligent highground" when you yourself can't tell right from wrong.

4. In an era dominated by Next/Apple/East media, I found it hugely absurd that somebody would still hold on to this notion that the present Hong Kong media is still prudish and sexually-repressive.

5. Just because others have committed far worse crimes than you, doesn't mean that you are allowed off the hook for the mistake that you yourself have committed.

6. There is a huge difference between being popular and being right.

June 12, 2006 1:17 AM


Anonymous said...
當然「性幻想」同「非禮」意義上差天共地,但斷估一個男性的「性幻想」絕對唔會係同佢既幻想對像「純吃茶」如此間單...掛?「我最想非禮的XXX」,當中的「想非禮」,本身就只係一種「性幻想」,假若換轉成「最能令我產生性幻想的XXX」,我諗會「順耳」番些少。無可否認此投票題目非常之惡趣味,但我諗真係冇空間塞得落咁多罪名...又假如投票題目改成「我要去非禮的XXX」,就真係理應被千夫所指,死在萬刀之下....我都會想去斬佢九十九碌!:目
June 12, 2006 3:21 AM

Snowdrops said...
Anonymous wrote:
"當然「性幻想」同「非禮」意義上差天共地,但斷估一個男性的「性幻想」絕對唔會係同佢既幻想對像「純吃茶」如此間單...掛?

"Who says sexual fantasies include only "純吃茶"??? It wouldn't be called "sexual" fantasies would it if you're only going for a cup of coffee. The key difference between「性幻想」同「非禮」which you've miserably failed to note is that one is in the realm of individual fantasy where the recipient of your attention accepts your sexual advances, whilst the very definition of 非禮 is that sexual contact is initiated against a person's will. The difference between the two is NOT that one is sexually tamer than the other, or that one phrase is more「順耳」than the other, but that one could be CONSENSUAL while the other is CLEARLY NOT. Get it?

So you could have a poll asking people for the actress they would most like to engage in any type of XXX-rated sexual activities and it would still have been perfectly legitimate, but to use the term 非禮 is totally inexcusable even in liberal, sexually-progressive Western media* precisely because its very definition involves a victim of sexual violence.

*I would say the poll would NOT be condoned "especially" in liberal, sexually-progressive Western media precisely because these media are the first propagators of women's rights and the feminist agenda. Remember it is the feminists who burned bras and demanded sexual freedom for women. So what gets my goat are those Sammy/SiuYee supporters who try to paint the feminist organisations as "sexually-repressive man-haters". They really have no clue and I feel sorry for these blind fans.

June 12, 2006 8:46 AM


jol said...
i think samsiu is in the wrong time wrong place wrong situation. i truly think this is not a problem, i don't see why people freak out on this normal topic. this topic isn't a bigggg deal anyways..im sure hk teenagers were already exposed to "sex" long before they step into secondary school. the women organization are probably the only group that still hold the traditional mind set, which is naive. c'mon, this is 2006, is not 1900. get with the program ladies! just let dj go!

June 12, 2006 5:19 PM


Snowdrops said...

Jol says "i truly think this is not a problem, i don't see why people freak out on this normal topic. this topic isn't a bigggg deal anyways."

Great, thank you for letting us know that you think sexual assault is a "normal topic" and "isn't a bigggg deal". I will advise my girlfriends to avoid you like the plague.

Jol also says, "im sure hk teenagers were already exposed to "sex" long before they step into secondary school."

You still don't get it do you? We are talking about SEXUAL ASSAULT, NOT SEXUAL ACTIVITIES BETWEEN CONSENTING ADULTS!! If you think that HK primary school kids have been exposed to learning how to 非禮 their female classmates then I'm truly sorry for the state of education in HK.

And just so you know, people are not "freaking out" over this poll, they are rightly indignant at the amount of lies and excuses being offered in defense of an indefensible albeit thoughtless mistake. If you can't get your head around a simple and straightforward difference between consensual sex and sexual assault, then don't paint yourselves as these "sexually-enlightened", "intelligent", "modern forward-thinking" people. It would only make people laugh because you guys are really neanderthals at heart.

June 13, 2006 12:52 AM


Snowdrops said...

Hey 袁建滔‧ you wrote in this blog itself that:
"又有多少人認為時下年青人真的笨到做完一個問卷調查後,便「覺醒」到原來「非禮也不是甚麼一回事」,便跑上街非禮別人?"

I think Jol's comment "i truly think this is not a problem, i don't see why people freak out on this normal topic. this topic isn't a bigggg deal anyways.." has completely refuted your contention that this poll would not encourage or further endorse the view that "「非禮也不是甚麼一回事」".


So what have you to say to that eh? It's amazing isn't it that there really are some of the 時下年青人 who are 真的笨到這個程度吧. While they might not have gone on to commit sexual assault themselves, but they certainly think that sexual assault, a criminal offense, is no big deal. Do you not see something seriously wrong with this picture? Or are you all so male-centric in your thinking that you're prepared to condone or even legalise sexual assault? Did sex education in Hong Kong only teach the students the biology of sex and not also the attendant moral and legal aspects to sexual relations?


真的真的比這班偽善and偽開放者好好睇清楚自己的所作所為!!


In relation to your view that "但最令我不安的是接受媒體訪問的各「學者」、「講師」全部一致狂插……在這股正義旋風下,要挺直腰板也不容易。" Perhaps you should consider that when 接受媒體訪問的各「學者」、「講師」全部一致狂插, then perhaps there really is a just cause for revision of your views rather than persisting in a state of denial. It's also hilarious how most of the people here have tried to describe 各「學者」、「講師」in Hong Kong as "單一思考人士們仍然未能放眼世界,突破傳統上一些腐敗的枷鎖而自我進步" in order to support their endorsement of the poll. Right, so all these academics with their overseas PhDs and international experience have "single-track minds" and "haven't seen the world to advance beyond corrupt traditions". What a laugh! You don't know anything about how gender studies and issues are tackled in the West if you don't understand the very basic concept of consent in sex. For Jol to tell the ladies to "get with the programme" just takes the micky - you should get with a basic and enlightened programme of gender relations rather than being stuck in the Stone Ages.


It's soooooo easy isn't it to just ignore valid criticisms by simply painting your critics as "偽善、缺乏幽默感、以道德標準高" rather than tackle their arguments head on. Just accept a thoughtless mistake has been made so that we can advance proper discussions about the state of sex education and gender relations in Hong Kong, rather than keep denying there is anything wrong at all. It'd make for far more productive debate as well as a healthier society.

June 13, 2006 1:55 AM


sidekick said...
寫了一篇, 是關於這個的:“常見到大家問及:“為何對商台此事窮追猛打的報章,自己卻刊有風月版?這不是賊喊捉賊,一百步笑五十步嗎?”這是我從“技術”層面上的看法,有錯還望大家指正。”內文有電台的節目標準連結,及其他更多資料,希望大家有空可以看看。袁說:“有說律政司正研究起訴與否,我想讓法律去解決反而是件好事。要知道,這種「以言入罪」(誘使他人犯罪)玩起上來,點砌都得。”<-這個“以言入罪”,用得不好,亦用得太好。電台,明明就是聲音媒介,會犯罪,亦當然是因為“言”,但,是否就等於“點砌都得”呢?不盡然...在電台的節目準則,已列得很清楚,這件事實在已犯了錯。當然,這個錯到底有多大?值得其他傳媒插得這麼狠嗎?我覺得不值的。現時,最有問題的,已經不是森美小儀,而是那些傳媒高層、政府高官、社團代表,及教育界高人了!

June 13, 2006 5:13 AM


Snowdrops said...
Sidekick says "當然,這個錯到底有多大?值得其他傳媒插得這麼狠嗎?我覺得不值的。現時,最有問題的,已經不是森美小儀,而是那些傳媒高層、政府高官、社團代表,及教育界高人了!"

I agree broadly with your post, and also completely agree that the point has now become where the "problem" is no longer Sammy and Siu Yee. At least, all Sammy/Siu Yee did in effect in my view was to uncover much more starkly the underlying attitudes towards sex in Hong Kong in spite of all the education and Westernization that its populace has received.

What I would disagree however is that the problem lies only with "那些傳媒高層、政府高官、社團代表,及教育界高人" - at least, the problem is not as straightforward as the Sammy-SiuYee defenders would paint them as. It's hugely insulting for "社團代表,及教育界人" to be lumped in with the Government and the Next/East/Apple media, when there have been many occasions when these stood in opposition with one another, so it's really unfair for S/SY critics to ignore their voices just because these happened to chime in with the Government agenda. It's rather galling that S/SY defenders persist in the lies that the former is being co-opted by the latter because they could find no better argument to defend what S/SY has done. The worst form of "argument" in a debate is to resort to labelling your opponents as undesirables, such as happened in the state of the U.S. political discourse where Liberals are painted as unpatriotic lily-livered intellectuals who are too stupid to realise that they are being co-opted by the Al-Queda agenda. I see the same type of portrayals being at work here which is extremely worrying. Can the majority of "forward-thinking" "liberal" Hong Kong populace do no better than the U.S. Republicans?

So all the "其他傳媒插得這麼狠" partly is because of fact that the opposing side just cannot accept that there is a fundamental problem at all. By persisting in a state of denial and ignoring responsibilities, as quite a few posters on here have done, the debate just spiralled into a slanging match on both sides. You cannot have a row with only one side 插得這麼狠, it's about time that the S/SY defenders realise the role that they have played in the row itself, and how they themselves have 插 feminists and community organisations as well as the educators 這麼狠, to the extent of character-assasinating them as sexually-repressive and insulting their legitimate critics' all-round intelligence. And again please realise that by legitimate critics I DO NOT include the likes of Next/Apple/East media who are indeed being hypocritical in the extreme and has no right whatsoever to criticise S/SY. The fact though is that the voices of legitimate critics have been drowned out by these mainstream media also whilst at the same time they were being accused of being co-opted by the agenda of these same mainstream media.

Simply put, I would argue that there is a dire need to look at this problem on a far more sophisticated level than simple name-calling on both sides.

June 13, 2006 12:30 PM

P.s. There is also another really brilliant essay, excerpted below, by Yat-Chee over at the DiuMan Park blog, which decodes in a much more sophisticated manner the politics underpinning the debate and how it is not as simplistic as S/SY defenders made them out to be:

...我說過那是「為求出位不知分寸」,一直認為那只是個小風波,即使婦女團體抗議,也不過像五一勞動節時工人遊行抗議僱主剝削般無力。問題出於森美小儀翌日的反應——如果他們承應一時過火,道歉了事,這個風波可以平息。但一邊廂,選舉名稱改為「最性感藝人」,另一邊廂,他們死撐到底,語帶囂張。

於是風波鬧大,社會輿論狠批,商台和森美小儀才手足無措地道歉。曾蔭權及其SPIN DOCTOR看在眼裏,機不可失,正好從中抽水。...

由於心愛的偶像DJ被逼停職,Fans幾近瘋狂,紛紛發起簽名行動,繼而歪理連篇,意圖為偶像過錯掩飾,力求他們再開咪。謊言說一百次會變成真理,但歪理在某些人面前說一百萬次還是歪理。於是,民間反響更大。

因此,曾蔭權的特區政府正好可以佔據道德高地,大條道理指摘兩人已把青少年教壞,認為此風不可長,出師有名處罰商台。而偏偏這個道德高地,並非特區政府強行攻佔的,而是一班可愛fans為政府越堆越高的。...如果森美小儀夠政治敏感,他們還可以再次公開悔過,呼籲fans不要再盲目力撐,那不單可以贏得掌聲,更可勉強力挽狂瀾,阻止政府借力打力。問題是,他們一如最初,毫無政治意識,令人覺得他們在嚮往fans的力撐,暗示他們的道歉純屬公司決策,心裏還是忿忿不平。

森美小儀也像大部分香港人一樣,政治冷感,對政治的認識和意識超低。可悲的是,沒有人是一座孤島——人人以為政治事不關己,卻想不到自己的一時失言便引爆了一個政治炸彈,不單禍及公司,更傷及無辜的廣大市民。...

在政治對弈當中,你爭我奪,借題發揮,本來就是常事。... 即使你是爭取民主的義士,你在大遊行中涉嫌抽水,還是要受到審判。雖然,在政治鬥爭中,往往為達目的不擇手段,偶然要掩著良心做事,但如果那個虛構的民主鬥士在遊行中抽水,我們為大局視而不見,我們又是否真的希望這樣的一個新政府上台?...

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Saturday, June 10, 2006

Watch your *THOUGHTS* they become words;

Watch your *WORDS* they become actions;

Watch your *ACTIONS* they become habits;

Watch your *HABITS* they become character;

Watch your *CHARACTER* for it becomes your *DESTINY*


Quote from Gwashababy from Comment is Free, which seems to me quite apposite after all the online hullabaloo on the whole "Sexual Assault Poll" affair in Hong Kong media, because the above quote does show the insidious nature of media influence on young minds. Those who try to deny the responsibility of the young radio show presenters concerned are trying to deny the power of the media altogether, by arguing that there is no such thing as an "incitation to sexual violence". Hmmm, maybe there isn't when you are simply asking listeners to talk about their sexual fantasies, but if you were actually asking people to give you names of actresses they most like to sexually assault, then such "incitation" is loud and clear.

It is very worrying this aptly-labelled "反智當潮流" trend (to quote 葉一知). Not having been back to HK for so long, I just wish that it really isn't as bad as the online debates have made the place sound like. (I think I'm beginning to understand how some expat Americans must feel about their Fox News driven homeland now...). Anyway, below are my contributions to the online debates. Other bloggers have argued the case far more eloquently than I did. Hats off to them!

Reply on "Jacky's Blog":

Somebody above said, “非禮是一個禁忌,不能說!只是因為避而不談,自欺欺人,以為不說就不會發生非禮這種事,這只是無知的表現”

I cannot believe there are people who thinks that sexual assault is only a “taboo”!!!! Thank goodness there are people like Mad Dog and Dark Man above who refuted such nonsense even from a male perspective! This is not about so-called “moralists” in Hong Kong being too prudish about sex, this is a popular phone-in radio show actively asking its listeners to nominate female stars they would most like to sexually assualt!! HOW COULD ANYONE DEFEND THIS???? Even liberal opinions in the West (I should say especially true progressive voices like the Guardian) would not condone such flagrant incitation to sexual violence in mainstream media. The fact that this has been voiced by likeable young radio hosts just make the whole story sadder, and the fact that they didn’t even bother apologising properly for their really serious mistake until they have been almost forced to do so by the strength of opposition voices made me worry about the youths of today. I’m surprised to hear that Sammy’s meant to be a university guest lecturer – did he “read shitty diapers”?

I also seriously take issue with the view that we cannot criticise Sammy and Siu Yee’s show because the Next and Apple media are far worse in their disrespectful treatment of women. Hey! Since when are people allowed off the hook just because other people have done far worse things?? If we are to follow this illogic then we can’t reprimand a thief or a cheat or even a rapist, because you know, he’s not even as bad as those who murder people so what right have we to take these people to task for the crimes and mistakes they have committed? In any case I feel that Sammy and Siu Yee, and Commercial Radio Station for that matter, should be chastised precisely because they are meant to represent an alternative to the Next/Apple/East porn-filled media.

I think Sammy and Siu Yee get their just desserts by having their show stopped for a period of time, to send out the clear message that when you made a mistake, no matter how popular you are, there are consequences. An apology is the LEAST that should be expected from them and it should have been sincerely offered without prompting, rather than something reluctantly squeezed from them as if we’re extracting teeth. The fact that this was a thoughtless mistake rather than a deliberate intent on the part of the presenters was a mitigating factor – but precisely because they work in the broadcast media, they should have learnt their lesson about the importance of word choices a long time ago.

Reply on "Another Day is Gone":

I completely agree with Sidekick. There are serious weaknesses behind your very male-centric statement:

"整個事非的背後,其實還隱藏著一個香港密碼,就是大家仍然對性的態度和保守,還停留在逹文西的時代。據醫學的報導,男性在每20分鐘便有性的幻想,對異性的好奇和渴望異性的慰藉甚至親近,事實是男人的天性。大型的外國雜誌或網站,如People,Life,US,都曾經post過類似的問題,向讀者詢問,如誰是你最渴望做愛的女星之類的調查,簡直是見怪不怪""

1. You don't have to be a prude to realise that sexual assault is wrong. The whole point of sexual violence is that the sexual contact is initiated by another person against your will. This has nothing to do with whether you are sexually-active or have sexually-liberal or conservative attitudes. You don't want to have any sexual contact with guy X, so when guy X forced sexual contact on you it becomes an assault on your person, and this has nothing whatsoever to do with your general attitudes to sex itself. So trying to link sexual assault with sexual conservatism is a serious mistake, it simply adds insult to the injury sustained by victims of sexual assault, because there is an implicit suggestion that the women are just being too precious and that if they are only a bit more 'open-minded' or indeed, 'have a sense of humour' then sexual assault won't happen.

2. Just because men fantasizes about women all the time, it doesn't give them the right to initiate unwanted sexual contact with women. The fact that the poll was specifically asking people to nominate the female star they most want to "sexually assault" is COMPLETELY different from asking you to nominate someone you have the most sexual fantasies about. Even in the context of progressive, liberal Western media, such a poll would be seen as completely indefensible and will NOT be condoned.

3. I also take issue with this perception that somehow HK is still very "prudish" when it comes to sex when compared with Western countries. Let's put aside this rather silly idea that HK people should follow whatever Western countries think and do. The point is that you will RARELY, IF EVER, see in the UK and Ireland the kind of sexually-explicit and soft-porn-filled content in mainstream publishing media readily available in HK. Yes you will have Page 3 girls in tabloid papers and you will have stories about the sexual adventures of celebrities, etc. But not to the extent of encouraging perverts and peeping Toms by having photographers AIMING for the female stars' underwear, that kind of obsessive pornographic slant to mainstream media I must say is quite unique to HK (Or perhaps HK is simply following Japanese media). And I feel all the more sorry for the people in HK that this is so.

Reply on "DiuMan Park":

Just want to say I'm grateful that there are still many clear-thinking people in HK who see through all the lies and excuses being made on behalf of Sammy and Siu Yee. "Jacky" you tried so hard to sound reasonable but I'm sorry to say that actually none of your so-called arguments made any sense at all. Bravo 一知, Sum and others for your level-headed analysis and brilliant retorts!

And just so you know Jacky, I'm a young person also, and not everybody who criticises Sammy and Siu Yee for their inexcusable mistake hate them as presenters. I like them as presenters, but they are clearly wrong on the question of this thoughtless and disrespectful poll, and I'm not so naive and stupid as to try to defend them at all costs just because I like their general presenting style. (We have 15/16 show here also).

Don't try to paint all those who criticise Sammy and Siu Yee as old humourless prudes. There is a huge difference between being popular and being right. When you are wrong, don't try to white-wash it by pretending it's no big deal. This should have been a very basic moral lesson learnt by anyone calling him/herself a responsible adult.

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Dinner with great company...

I just had a most wonderful evening... I was invited by my graduating class to dinner this evening (more strictly speaking yesterday evening as it's now past midnight) at a casual Italian restaurant just up the road from where we're based. This is the last week of their academic year - indeed their academic programme - and the class got together for a final hurrah before they all set off for the summer to finish their individual theses, and they've invited all the key course staff (all four-person-strong) to the dinner as well. In the event I was the only one who could join the students, and what a treat it was!

These people will be my first ever full graduates on the programme that I both manage and teach (I had a previous graduate class but they aren't my "full graduates" in the sense that I haven't taught them from the very beginning of the two-year programme), and I'm so lucky to have met with the nicest bunch of people you'd ever come across in a professional Masters' programme setting, who have been so nice to me in so many ways...

I was completely green when I first started the job, and my attention initially was diverted to the then Second Years, amongst whom a few were complaining a lot because I represented an abrupt change in their programme (since they had a variety of instructors before me in their First Year). So it was almost like entering a battle field to go into the classroom to teach the Second Years in the first week of every month, for the students as a group were quite suspicious about any new assignments they had to do and any new changes to the delivery format, even when those changes were precisely what they have demanded in course evaluations (though to be fair, individually they are lovely people and I became good friends with a few of them, and it was really nice to see this class graduate with the most straight passes on their dissertations compared to the previous years of the programme before I came on).

So compared against that, I always felt a palpable sense of relief in the second week of the month when the then First Years (now the graduating Second Year class) came in, because with these guys I got to mould their expectations and set ground-rules and standards from the very beginning. There's a level of trust that we've developed over the two years that allows me to experiment with different teaching methods I picked up from workshops and conferences. In truth, they are my "guinea pigs", and I have been most blessed with their generosity in putting up with me not only by being willing and even enthusiastic participants in adopting new ways of running interactive class sessions, but more importantly, by actively encouraging and being supportive of me throughout the two years, even when the going gets tough. I shall never forget the comments I received from their course evaluations, such as these:

"[Module Name] was quite difficult to get into first, but once I get the hang of it I really appreciate all the hard work that [My Name] has put into the course"

"[My Name] is excellent! She is very supportive and very helpful, and always available to answer queries. Her written comments have been invaluable."

Their really, really kind comments almost made me cry. Especially because I was going through some very tough negotiations with my department at the time, which wasn't giving me any of the support they promised, nor indeed appreciation for the work that I've put in to systematise a badly-run administration system and revamp my module which improved the number of graduates with straight-pass dissertations on the programme. I hung on to these encouragements from my Second Year students, to remind myself the reason why I am doing this, my raison d'etre for being here.

What made me really grateful, is also the fact that these students never ever, not once, made my ethnicity and my age and indeed my inexperience an issue, in spite of the fact that most of them are far older than me and way more experienced than I am in the field (as our programme entry requirements are targeted towards middle to senior management in the field). Even though there are quite a number of Asians working in senior clinical positions in the field these days, they must have felt a bit surprised when they saw this young Chinese girl standing before them teaching a non-clinical subject. However, being down-to-earth, open-minded people that they are, they just got on with the class. They thrashed me when I presented too much information (yes I really get the message now guys!), but it was all done very constructively and they similarly take my feedback - both positive and negative - really well, and came back and ask for more, just as I did with them. In short, they are honest with me and I with them, in a way that not only doesn't cause offense but help enrich our mutual understanding. We shared some genuine good laughs in the class and I'm glad to see this carried over to our dinner itself, which was casual and a lot of fun. They are a great bunch of people and I learnt so, so much from them.

So I want to end this tribute to my lovely students by saying, "Class of 2006! You're, like you said yourselves, the best Second Year students I've ever had!! I will never forget you folks! Thank you for helping me develop as a teacher. Thank you for all the fun times we shared. Thank you all sooooo much for everything!!!"

p.s. And thanks very much for your lovely Kilkenny ceramics gift :D It'd be perfect for my new apartment! (if and when I get one!)

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